Buying a used vehicle doesn’t have to be scary. I have bought dozens of cars used and been very happy with 99 percent of them. The other 1 percent taught me how not to buy a used car.
Why buy an auto used?
Part of the beauty of buying a car used as opposed to a new vehicle is you have so many options to choose from. There are any numbers of sources you can go through. Auto auctions, newspaper classifieds and online boards are three of my favorites. “Used car for sale by owner” are six of my favorite words.
You’ll notice I didn’t mention used car lots. That’s because they should be a last resort. Based on my experience, you’ll get a much better deal buying a used truck or car from an individual than a dealership. People selling their own cars have much lower overhead to pay and they know the used vehicles they are selling. It’s the one in their front yard they don’t want anymore.
What to check first on a used auto.
I have included a used car checklist you can use when shopping for a used car. It is the photo at the top of this page. Just click on it to enlarge. Before you’ll need it though, you can begin evaluating a vehicle at first sight. Here are some things to look for before you pull out the checklist.
- Does the car look clean? If the seller hasn’t cleaned the car to sell it, they probably haven’t taken care of it while they drove it. Walk away.
- Is there any visible rust? Look close below the doors and immediately behind the tires. Rust takes time to surface. If you see rust in these spots, there is probably much worse damage you can’t see. Walk away.
- Do you see any spots where the body isn’t quite smooth or the paint doesn’t exactly match? These can be from minor work or major repairs. Use your judgment based on what you see or you can ask. If it is below the doors or behind the tires, see above and walk away.
- Is the exhaust pipe black and sooty looking inside? If yes the car probably has engine damage and is burning oil. Walk away.
- Do the tires match? Mismatched tires are a sign of poor maintenance. Tires properly rotated will wear even and wear out together. There can be an excuse for an odd tire. Flats happen, so ask the owner about it. If two or more are odd, walk away.
- Is the tire-tread wearing even across the face of all four tires? If not there is an alignment problem or worse. Walk away.
These are just the things to look at as you walk towars the car you may want to buy. For a more complete check list, please click the picture that accompanies this article.
Good resources to help with your used auto purchase are listed below.
Insurance cost, Edmunds, Kelly Blue Book